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Many big-name free agents still available for Orioles

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Many big-name free agents still available for Orioles

There wasn’t the expected Christmas rush by players and teams to sign free agents.

While the Orioles did officially sign South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim to a two-year, $7 million contract just before the holiday break began, an unprecedented number of big name free agents don’t yet have a baseball home for 2016 and beyond.

That’s a huge upset.

Two weeks ago, it seemed that most of the top free agents were gone, and those who weren’t would be in short order.

That didn’t happen.

RELATED Orioles formally announce Hyun-soo Kim signing

As we prepare of 2016, not only do Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Davis not have employers for the upcoming season, but many others don’t, either.

Pedro Alvarez, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler, Alex Gordon, Howie Kendrick, Denard Span, and Justin Upton are among the prominent hitters without a job.

Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir and Ian Kennedy are top name pitchers looking for work, too.

Some of these have gotten offers, good ones, too. Davis had the reported seven-year, $150 one from the Orioles. The Orioles have also shown interest in Alvarez, Gordon and Upton.

Span will conduct a workout for interested teams next month.

They’ve also been serious about Gallardo and Kazmir, too.

Some of those who haven’t signed were given qualifying offers, and it may be a drag on the market for Desmond, Fowler, Kendrick and Kennedy.

A record 20 players were given qualifying offers, and for the first time, three players took the $15.8 million bait. They could return to what’s considered a relatively weak free agent market a year from now.

So could some of the others, but teams may not want to sign players to one-year deals when the cost is a draft pick.

While nearly two months of free agency are behind us, the Orioles still don’t report to Sarasota, Fla. for spring training until Feb. 18, more than six weeks from now.

Some of the big money teams have spent big money—Boston (David Price), Chicago Cubs (Jason Heyward) Detroit (Jordan Zimmermann), San Francisco (Johnny Cueto), a few big spenders: the Angels, Dodgers, Nationals, Rangers and Yankees haven’t splurged, yet, but still may do so.

Each year, there’s always one team that unexpectedly jumps in on a big name, and this year it was Arizona, which lavished its riches on Zack Greinke.

While I was off for a week, a reader wondered about the Orioles and Cespedes.

When Cespedes defected from Cuba, the Orioles showed interest, but were outbid by Oakland.

Cespedes, who turned 30 during the postseason, is seeking a six-year contract. That has probably scared teams away.

His stats have been excellent, especially in the last two months of the 2015 season with the New York Mets.

Cespedes gave the Mets the offensive spark they needed, hitting 17 homers and driving in 44 runs in 57 games. He even got some MVP votes.

He’s certainly an exciting player, but there are some cautionary signs.

Cespedes was traded three times in a year. Oakland traded him to Boston, and they moved him to Detroit, which sent him to the Mets.

Excellent players aren’t usually traded that often.

He plays left field, and the Orioles signed Kim, who’s unproven at the major league level to play there. Cespedes has never played right field.

In 16 games in Baltimore, Cespedes has a .261 average with three home runs and 11 RBIs.

If he wants a one-year platform deal, perhaps the Orioles could sign him because he wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer. He’ll probably have to settle for less than a six-year deal, but he should get a nice offer shortly after the New year begins.

As for Davis, we’ll continue to wait.

CATCHING UP: There were several moves over the past week:

-Left-handed pitcher Edgar Olmos, who was claimed on waivers earlier this month from Seattle, was lost on waivers to the Chicago Cubs.

-Tim Berry, who spent one night in the Orioles bullpen in June 2014, but didn’t pitch, was claimed on waivers by Miami.

-Infielder Rey Navarro, designated for assignment when Darren O’Day was re-signed, was claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Angels.

The Orioles currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

-The Orioles re-signed pitcher Bobby Bundy to a minor league contract and also brought back outfielder Xavier Avery, signing him to a minor league contract. Terry Doyle, who was 16-2 with a 2.16 ERA with Bowie and Norfolk has also been signed to a minor league contract.

Minor league catcher Zach Kapstein was acquired from Boston for cash considerations. Kapstein is the nephew of Jeremy Kapstein, who recently joined the Orioles front office after a long stint with the Red Sox.

-Former Orioles Robert Andino and Troy Patton were signed to minor league contracts by the Marlins.

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

Buck Showalter has been fired as manager of the Orioles, who made three playoff appearances under his guidance but this year staggered through the worst season since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954.

Showalter confirmed the dismissal Wednesday in a text message to The Associated Press.

A three-time AL Manager of the Year, Showalter ranks second on the Orioles' career list with 669 victories, trailing Earl Weaver. He took over in August 2010 and orchestrated the resurgence of a team that suffered through 14 straight losing seasons.

Once hailed for making baseball in Baltimore relevant again, the 62-year-old Showalter is out of a job after a season in which the Orioles finished 47-115, 61 games behind Boston in the AL East. His contract expired at the end of October, and the Orioles opted against a renewal as they continue a major rebuild that began in late July, when they traded stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman for minor league prospects.

Those deals were made by Dan Duquette, the executive vice president of baseball operations, whose future with the organization is up in the air.

Showalter earned AL Manager of the Year honors in 2014 after taking the Orioles to the AL East title and a berth in the Championship Series. He was also named Manager of Year with the Yankees in 1994 and Texas in 2004. His career record is 1,551-1,517, including 669-684 with Baltimore.

"I just think ever since he came here, the franchise just gained a little more accountability, gained an edge for some time," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said before the final game of the season. "It's the end of an era. A great manager, a great tenure. I don't know if he's going to coach or manage again, but he's got grandchildren. Go golf. Relax and go sit on the golf course."

With his future in doubt, Showalter appeared undaunted during the final series of the regular season.

"You know how good they've been to me? I'm not ever going to forget that, regardless of what happens," he said.

Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin was asked before his team's playoff game against the Yankees on Wednesday night whether Showalter was victimized by the trend toward analytics.

"I don't think Buck was a guy that ignored analytics," Melvin said. "I think it was probably a combination of how they did this year and maybe some relationships."

After the Orioles brought Showalter out of retirement, he offered renewed hope by fashioning a 34-23 finish in 2010 for a team that was 32-73 upon his arrival.

Baltimore ended a 14-year playoff drought in 2012, advancing to the AL Division Series following a victory over Texas in the wild-card game. Playoff appearances in 2014 and 2016 followed.

Last year, however, the Orioles fell to 75-87 after losing 19 of their final 23 games. Baltimore hoped the addition of starters Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner would enable the team to be a contender this year, but a horrid start quickly dispelled that notion.

The Orioles' deficit in the AL East reached double digits by April 18 and they were 8-27 on May 8. By the end of July, Baltimore fully entered rebuilding mode, leaving Showalter with the dubious distinction of overseeing a team that finished with the poorest record in the majors and one that surpassed the 1939 St. Louis Browns for most losses in franchise history.

Showalter never offered an excuse. He just grinded forward, working to prepare the team for 2019 even though he knew he might not be around to follow through.

At the outset of a season-ending series against Houston, Showalter was asked if he was thinking these might be his final days in the Baltimore dugout.

"We all have some private thoughts and emotions about that, but I don't think it serves the organization well for me to be worried about that right now," he said. "We've got some things to do these last four games that need to get done."

Showalter has a reputation as a no-nonsense manager, but his players appreciated his baseball knowledge and skill at handling a team. He made a point of talking to each of them on a regular basis, almost always offering encouragement.

"He gave me a chance," said catcher Caleb Joseph, who played six-plus years in the minors before arriving in Baltimore. "He believed in me in 2014, ran me out there and gave me a chance to be part of a championship team. He's really vouched for me ever since. I owe a lot to Buck and his loyalty. He's been a main figure here for a long time."

Sensing the end was near for the only big league manager he had ever played for, first baseman Trey Mancini said: "It's been an absolute honor to play for Buck. He's been incredible."

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Red Sox beat Orioles 6-2 to clinch home field through Series

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Red Sox beat Orioles 6-2 to clinch home field through Series

The Boston Red Sox broke a 106-year-old franchise record with their 106th victory on Monday night, clinching home-field advantage through the postseason by beating the Baltimore Orioles 6-2 thanks to a pair of hits from major league batting leader Mookie Betts.

Nathan Eovaldi struck out 10 hapless Orioles batters to assure the Red Sox of the best record in baseball this season and home-field advantage through the World Series, if they make it that far. For now, they know they will open the Division Series at Fenway Park on Oct. 5 against the winner of the AL wild-card game between the New York Yankees and mostly likely Oakland.

The 1912 Red Sox won 105 games in their first season at Fenway Park.

The Orioles (45-111) became the sixth AL team and the first since the 2003 Tigers to lose 111 games, falling 60 games behind Boston (106-51) in the division. It's the first time since 1939 that teams separated by 60 wins in the standings have played each other.

Boston scored four in the second inning, getting back-to-back doubles from Steve Pearce and Brock Holt, an RBI single from Christian Vazquez and Betts' two-run homer over the Green Monster. It was the 32nd homer of the season for Betts, a new career high.

Betts also singled and scored in Boston's two-run fourth, moving him into the major-league lead with 125 runs scored. In his last three games, he is 10 for 16 with three homers and four doubles, and he leads teammate J.D. Martinez (.328) in the AL batting race.

Renato Nunez had three hits for the Orioles, who fell to 2-15 against Boston and 18-61 on the road this season.

FOR STARTERS

Six days after throwing six scoreless innings against the Yankees, Eovaldi (6-7) allowed one run on four hits in five innings, walking none but uncorking a pair of wild pitches.

Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy (8-16) gave up four runs on five hits and three walks in three innings, striking out five.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: RHP Yefrey Ramirez is scheduled to start on Wednesday, but manager Buck Showalter said he wanted to give him an extra day or two. "I think Yefrey will pitch again, I just don't know when," Showalter said.

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts was back in the lineup after feeling soreness in his left shoulder during a swing and leaving Sunday night's game. ... INF Eduardo Nunez ran on Sunday to test his hamstring and was scheduled to run again on Monday with the goal of having him back in the lineup by Wednesday or Friday.

UP NEXT

LHP David Price (15-7) tries to bounce back from a rough start in Yankee Stadium in the second game of the series in what could be his last start of the regular season.